LANCE Franklin and Jarryd Roughead are the stars in the Hawthorn forward line, but on Friday night in the preliminary final against Geelong, some of the lesser lights turned out to be the main attractions.
Hale's pack marking was a treat as he continued his rich vein of form. His past month or so has seen the best football he has played in his three years with Hawthorn since crossing from North Melbourne.
"It's always good to take a few pack marks. Our forward line worked pretty well," he said on Saturday at Waverley Park.
"I think we had 16 marks inside 50 which is pretty good against Geelong."
Shaun Burgoyne also kicked four goals on Friday night and while the Hawks were tardy in front of goals, reminiscent of last year's Grand Final, the fact they won the game with Franklin, Roughead and Cyril Rioli combining for just one goal between them augurs well for the Grand Final.
"I think all year the focus has been on having that spread," Hale said.
"With Gunston being able to play there and Luke Bruest and Paul Puopolo as well, it’s a good mix … and hopefully it will click again next week.
"That structure we have played all year and the flexibility of being able to play guys in different positions has held up well. If one bloke is being shut down or two or three, we still have avenues that we think we can open up."
Hale has loved his time with Hawthorn and said the move was desperately needed after a sour end to his time with North where he said he was going stale and playing "crap" footy.
"I think since I've come across, footy's been enjoyable and that translates to playing good footy," he said.
"My last couple of years have been fairly consistent and I want to play well on the big stage."
Hale endeared himself to the Hawthorn faithful even further during the frantic last few minutes on Friday night when he dived on a loose ball in the middle of the MCG and prevented it from spilling out towards the wing where Geelong had the numbers.
"It was do or die there," he recalled.
"Everyone is pretty spent so you have to do your best to lock it in. They had a few blokes loose running forward, so if we didn’t stop it there, it was probably going through the big sticks at the other end."
Hale spent the last quarter and half against the Cats playing in the ruck. Hawthorn's preferred tactic this year has been for Max Bailey and Hale to alternate in the ruck and for Bailey to be subbed out from there to bring in some extra run off the bench.
From there, Hale and Roughead split the ruck duties until the end of the match.
Last year, Bailey was injured for most of the year, so Hale became the No.1 ruckman. He denies suggestions he was "cooked" by the end of the season from having carried the load, but did admit it was taxing.
Asked what he preferred, he was suitably diplomatic: "Play in the ruck, and you run around and get a few more touches. But if you're playing in our forward line, you can sneak a few goals in which is always enjoyable."
So now he is back to where he was this time last year, one win away from a premiership.
"It sits with you for a long time," he said of the premiership defeat.
"You see blokes who lost them 20 years ago and it still sits with them. But we get a chance a year later to right the wrong of last year."
To do that, Hale admits the Hawks will need to kick better in front of goal. They finished with 14.18 on Friday night and for lengthy periods of the match, the poor conversion appeared set to haunt the Hawks once again.
"It is such an important part of the game and we had that early dominance and it didn’t translate on the scoreboard, which is similar to what happened last year in the Grand Final," Hale said.
"If we can have 62 inside 50s you should probably kick a winning score. We'll work on that this week and hopefully on the day they'll go straight."